Monday, May 18, 2015

Dr Who Celebrations with Steven Moffat - watch the live interview here https://youtu.be/SGsGD9m3mIk

Dr Who. New York. Cardiff. 

They are not words I ever imagined I would be uttering in the same sentence. But on Thursday night, on Broadway in New York, I found myself on stage saying those very words.
   
I wasn’t in a show. I was actually in the Institute of Technology’s Auditorium on Broadway and, despite having a microphone in my hand, I was managing to resist bursting into song.
   
I was in New York interviewing Steven Moffat: showrunner, executive producer and chief writer of Dr Who, which, in March this year, celebrated its 10 year revival. In 2010, Moffat took over from Russell T Davies, who had resurrected the series in 2005. And on 21st May, it will be 10 years since Moffat’s first Dr Who script, The Empty Child, starring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, hit the screen (to many, it remains the scariest episode of all time). Courtesy of the Cardiff Business Council and Bafta Cymru, the auditorium was packed with an eclectic mix of die-hard fans, both US and UK.
   
‘Before Dr Who, I had never been to Wales,’ Moffat confessed, but declared passion for the revitalisation of the TV and film industries, particularly among young people. ‘It used to be the case that if you wanted to do something in either, you had to go to London. But now, there is whole generation who don’t have to do that. And the future is always more interesting than the past – because we don’t know how it ends.’
   
Moffat is one of the easiest interviewees one could have – and yet, ironically, one of the toughest. He speaks so easily and with such fluidity, it would be easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. He cares passionately about the Doctor and is fiercely protective about the show; he is also very, very focused about what really matters.
   
We are talking about criticism he has received about his female characters who, to some, are perceived as weak, and needing a macho man to “rescue” them. ‘These are strong women,’ he argues. ‘If anyone needs rescuing, it’s the Doctor. As for “macho” - Matt Baker, David Tennant? Really?’ (At this, he does a really hilarious, rather camp Dr Who action that is all 12 Doctors rolled into one).
   
Moffat’s background in comedy has, he feels, given him a good grounding in writing drama. ‘In comedy, you have to be doing something all the time. Have we done anything is always the question. Everything is about the next laugh. And the change in comedy has been that the audience now knows how it works. In the kind of comedy we do in Dr Who, you need to surprise the audience: do something you didn’t tell them you were going to do.’
   
It was a childhood dream of Moffat to work on Dr Who, and he still emanates an innocent glow when he talks about working on the show – a show that has come a long way from the one that, back in 1963, was conceived as an educational programme to explore scientific ideas and famous moments in history – ‘Well that lasted all of five minutes,’ he says.   
   
His latest episode, Listen, is an extraordinary piece of work, with no monsters and just three characters. It’s a beautiful, lyrical piece that focuses on childhood fears – what’s under the bed. The truth is, like the Doctor’s “demons”, as Moffat calls them (oh yes, and ‘The Doctor’s also mad’), those things still lurk within all our lives. It’s a brilliant metaphor in the writing of someone whose subtlety often escapes people seeking an agenda.
   
Having just signed up for another year of Dr Who, and with the ongoing success of Sherlock, Moffat’s place in the Tardis of broadcasting in Wales looks secure. And for that, we really can be very grateful.

You can check out the interview at https://youtu.be/SGsGD9m3mIk
  

   

Saturday, May 9, 2015

It Would Never Happen in LA - How to Avoid Becoming a New York Corpse

Every so often, I go into shutdown mode.

It’s usually because someone has upset me, and my first reaction is to come off Twitter and Facebook and go into hibernation. Although I don’t mind drama in my own life and even thrive on it, I don’t like it in other people’s and, when they involve me in things that don’t concern me and cause trouble, I clam up. I stay indoors, watch wall to wall Law and Order: SVU on the telly, and sit pondering why people have to be so horrible.
   
I keep forgetting how much this upsets people. They worry. When you spend a ridiculous amount of time on social networking, as I do, disappearing from it altogether makes people fear the worst; it’s all they can do to stop themselves sending out search parties when they see your locked down Facebook page.
   
But I don’t like confrontation. People might find that odd for someone who has spent over 30 years of their life in journalism and broadcasting. But I’m lucky enough, in that world, to have had very little confrontation. Coming from the UK, where satire dissipates aggression in many areas of the media, I’ve been lucky enough not to become involved in huge arguments. We discuss, debate, laugh; we take what we call “the piss” out of each other. I know people who do thrive on more heated confrontation; I just never have. A raised voice can reduce me to tears.
   
Following the latest upset, my friends have been trying to coax me from my apartment for a week, to no avail. Last night, one said that he was going out with a great group of people, one of whom was very keen to meet me (I have reviewed her on TV). They were at a bar I didn’t want to go to and so I arranged to meet them at an Irish bar close to Times Square.
   
When you’ve been hiding from humanity for a week, people can seem very scary. Especially very large sports fans watching an ice hockey game sitting on the stool next to you. Let’s call him Gerald, to try to bring the tension down a bit.
   
Gosh, was Gerald a fan. An ex ice hockey player himself, he filled me in on the gruesome details of the joy of feeling ice shards on his face, and blades and whatnot . . . He told me who he was supporting, but I had to ask whether it was the men in white or the men in blue. It was the blue ones. 

“Who are the others?” I asked. “Fucking ISIS! Bunch of beheading bastards.” To be honest, “Washington” would have sufficed.
   
The men in white scored. “PUSSIES, PUSSIES! THE WHOLE FUCKING LOT OF YOU!” yelled Gerald.
   
I find the linguistic retardation difficult to take in New York. I don’t mind swearing and, indeed, have been known to partake of the odd expletive myself. But in LA, it just doesn’t happen on the same scale. I have been years without hearing so much as a “Damn”. But in New York, everything goes, and usually when a lump like Gerald is sitting in front of a TV screen.
   
So, back to Gerald and his blood pressure. The next great event was when the men in blue scored. I kid you not: Gerald picked up his chair and threw it. He also shouted a lot of things about cosmonauts that I didn’t understand. To me, it was just a few men on ice waving sticks. I had to move when Gerald’s next chair threatened to knock me out.
   
When my friends arrived, we moved on to Rudy’s, a dive bar in Hell’s Kitchen where the drinks are cheap and they give away hot dogs. We had a lovely time and it was good to meet some UK journalists who were in town. It was like finding my own kind on Mars. When they said goodbye to me on the corner of 43rd and 9th, there was a guy in front of me on the sidewalk of 43rd who I thought started to walk more slowly. I slowed my pace, too. Then he slipped behind a truck where I saw him lurking. I turned quickly to go back to 9th

“You fucking bitch! Whore! Fuck you, bitch!” I heard, as even more expletives followed me up the street.
   
Having lived in a lot of major cities, I consider myself pretty streetwise and I am used to being out late at night by myself. But call it gut instinct, this just didn’t feel right. I returned to Rudy’s, where one of the security staff walked me halfway down 44th until I felt I was safe.
   
Then, I nearly got killed. There were still double figures left on the lights on the crossing, but a yellow cab came speeding up at such a pace, I froze. There was a screech of brakes and a yell of “Fuck you!” (That one was from me, though). I was an inch of being wiped out – and I am not exaggerating.
   
I hate the car versus pedestrian laws in LA and NY (I have no idea about the other states). It’s very easy for cars in the UK: red, you stop, green you go. No “If I fancy turning left I’m allowed to even if the light is red” kind of nonsense.

   
So, I’ve decided never to go out again (again); it’s much simpler that way, even though I have to deal with the stresses of being indoors. Today, some organ sounding thing 27 floors down in the street was playing Oh Come All Ye Faithful, shortly followed by Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. 

Maybe that taxi did run me down and I’ve been in a coma for seven months. 

If that’s the case, Happy Christmas, everyone. 

Excuse me for not sending you a card.

May Day May Day - US TV's Seasonal Cull

Would Amanda/Emily (Emily VanCamp) ever get to smile for longer than five seconds without resorting to jaw reconstructive surgery? 

Would Nolan (Gabriel Mann) ever meet a man who knew how to take his underpants off? 

Would Margaux (Karine Vanasse) ever meet more than one journalist in her media empire? 

Would Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) totally morph into The Addams Family’s Morticia?
   
These, and many other questions, occupied me throughout the four seasons of Revenge, which has finally succumbed to the cruel world of broadcasting euthanasia.
   
The writing was on the cards for the ABC show halfway through season three, when the actors started to appear as confused as viewers were as to what the hell was going on. One could only imagine the horror they felt when their eyes first alighted upon each new script, wondering how many more expressions of staring into the middle distance they could muster, while their brains tried to compute the machinations of the plot.
   
The last episode airs tomorrow night in the US (the UK has five weeks to go), and I have to confess that, for all its silliness, I’ll miss it.
   
ABC has also cancelled Forever, starring my fellow Welshman Ioan Gruffudd. I’ll miss that, too, but it’s not hard to see where it went wrong as viewing figures tumbled.
   
The basis premise was that Dr Henry Morgan solves crimes using medical knowledge he has gleaned over 200 years. Each time he dies, for some never quite explained reason he turns up in water, only to start life all over again – hence his living forever.
   
The series fell apart when they dropped the explanation from the start of each episode. If you didn’t know the basic premise, you would have been baffled as to why Abe (Judd Hirsch) was calling Henry “Dad” (Henry was his father in another life), or, even, what the flashbacks were to a young Henry. Revenge always set out its stall at the start of each episode, whereas Forever ignored a really important piece of dramatic advice – Don’t hide the ball.
   
May is a difficult time for US shows as they wait to hear whether the axe is going to fall. I’m sorry to see NBC’s Bad Judge go, because I found Kate Walsh in the lead very funny. It was a neat script, but I suspect caved in to complaints from the legal profession that it portrayed judges in a bad light. Hey, it’s a comedy, guys!
   
The Mysteries of Laura, another NBC show and an adaptation of the Spanish drama Los misterios de Laura, has survived. After a brief shaky start, when it didn’t seem to know quite what it was, it quickly settled into a very funny, quirky, feel-good, must-see show, in no small part down to the always compelling Debra Messing as Detective Laura Diamond.
   
NBC has also saved The Blacklist. I have no idea what is going on anymore, but I could watch James Spader turning up in a hat with no explanation whatsoever for the rest of my life. He is one of my favourite actors of all time.
   
Raymond “Red” Reddington is a fine creation, and viewers root for him no matter whose brains, or how many brains, he blows out (again, for seemingly no reason whatsoever). All you need to know is that there are a lot of bad people in the world who are afraid of Mr Spader in a hat and he wipes them out in order to help the FBI. 

Oh, yes. And he has some connection to the only officer he will work with, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), whose job it is to stare quizzically at Mr Spader in a hat and save him from the bad people as well. Maybe all we’ll ultimately discover is that she is his milliner and has just been trying to pin him down for a fitting for new head attire.
   
The Americans will be returning to FX for a fourth season – another must-see show starring Matthew Rhys (fellow Welshman, also – we are coming, people, and are already among you!) and Keri Russell as two Soviet Intelligence agents seemingly living a normal suburban life in the USA as Philip and Elizabeth Jennings.
   
It’s an extraordinary show (created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg), with even more twists and turns than Revenge, but all of them totally believable. The wigs bother me a little because, in a dim light, you could be forgiven for thinking you had alighted upon a canine rescue centre. 

It’s hard to concentrate on the sex scenes when Philip is required to sleep with other women when under cover, as I just fear for the poor pooch falling from his head into the woman’s foo foo. How either of them would emerge looking half decent without engaging the help of a topiarist is anybody’s guess.
   
The jury’s still out on CBS’s The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies as lawyer Alicia Florrick, but with slipping viewing figures, I am a little nervous. It’s still a great show, but it hasn’t been the same since the death of Will Gardner (Josh Charles). The Will they/Won’t they get together? that was so central to the plot, was removed in an instant and left a hole they still haven’t quite been able to fill. A bit like . . . No, no jokes, please.
   
But it still has the extraordinary Christine Baranski (Diane Lockhart) and, at its heart, a moral core that, every week (as well as overall), delivers a valuable message without being patronising or preachy.
   
If, with Revenge, it’s axed, Sunday nights as I know them will be over. I might have to start going to church. Or the pub. 

Funnily enough, the jury’s not out on that score.  
    




            

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Gift of Forgiveness that is Ursula Ward

She will never get to dance at her son’s wedding. 

In the dignified, compassionate words that Ursula Ward spoke about her murdered only son, Odin, they were the ones that had me uncontrollably sobbing.
   
Compared to this family, I have nothing to cry about and I am not trying to jump on the pain bandwagon. They have endured, and will do for ever more, not only Odin’s death, but a lengthy trial, six days of what must have been unbelievable pain as they waited for justice. It has been served. The killer has been sentenced to life without parole.
   
I don’t believe I would ever be capable of the dignity that Ursula displayed in her words of forgiveness. I am not in favour of the death penalty (and I have really struggled with the issue since moving to the US, and I continue to find it an interesting ethical debate), but I have no idea how that would change if I lost someone close to me in heinous circumstances.
   
I consider myself a fair person and try to be fair to others. We are complex creatures; most things are rarely what they appear to be on the surface. When I am wronged, however . . . when people cause trouble with their lies in order to protect their own backs (and you know who you are . . . I’ll say just one thing: large vessels that sail on water), the hair on my arms really does stand up. Our instinct is to protect ourselves under attack, and it manifests itself physically very quickly.
   
Years ago, a journalist very nearly destroyed a close friendship when she told a completely false story about me to him. Thankfully, because I am someone who has to deal with every upsetting situation NOW, it was all sorted. Years later, that journalist came up to me all sweetie-pie and I tore her apart (not literally). I don’t forget.
   
More recently, another so-called friend (now ex) tried to back up her case against me with a “And so and so said this about you, too . . . ” I never even brought it up with the “accused” because, quite simply, I judge people on who I see them to be. Everyone talks, and, regularly, behind someone’s back. But most people do so very kindly, or out of concern. I happen to like this particular friend and can imagine the spirit in which the words were spoken. But it’s still a dash of poison that I could have done without, and I will never speak to the instigator – or, shall I say, the administrator of said poison – ever again. 

Not only do I not forget. I don’t forgive. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"? It was a part of my Baptist upbringing that was never going to resonate. 
   
Forgiveness is, to me, a state of being (like that of grace) to which I cannot even begin to aspire. An ex-boyfriend, with whom I broke up on December 8th 1999, ruining not only Christmas, but the Millennium celebrations, recently got in touch. He was going through all sorts of woes, including the break-up of his marriage to the woman I discovered 15 years ago he was sleeping with. I queried why he would contact me and he said that he thought I would “understand”.
   
I wondered which part of “understand” he thought I would get. His pushing me against a wall in Soho so aggressively, I had passers by coming to my aid? His laughing when I fell flat on my face on the French holiday (one of many) I paid for? The exorbitant sum of money I had to shame him into paying back (well, his mother) when I wrote about it? The hysterics as I argued with the Dyson on Boxing Day as I cleared up after the most miserable Christmas ever?
   
Where did he think I was in my life? Did he think that I had been pining alone in a room just waiting for this moment? There wasn’t an atom of “I’m sorry, I really hurt you” in any of it. Just ME, ME, ME. Well, guess what, buddy? Since I knew you, I have met some amazing people, including men. Men who are much brighter, funnier, kinder. And taller. Oh, yes. Much, much taller. And thinner. And richer. Dear god, yes: richer!

So, you see? Forgiveness does not come easily to me. I wonder whether it does to any of us. And when I watched Ursula Ward publicly declare forgiveness – and ask for it from others – the magnitude of her spirit moved me to tears.

   
My stories are not in the realm of the sorrow she is feeling. Her life has been destroyed. But still, she found it in her heart to say Forgive. 

Would that I could ever be such an extraordinary human being. 

Odin, I am sure, would have been so immensely proud. 

You may not ever dance at his wedding, Ursula, but today, I feel certain you have danced in ways few of us could ever have imagined.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Things We Do for Love

Finally, it’s over. 

My year of trying to look like Sandra Bullock has ended. My miserable, tortuous year of trying to be someone I was not, could never be, could never even remotely aspire to be, is no more. The relief is enormous.
   
Men, eh? Inevitably, it boils down to a flamin’ guy. And not even a guy I could have. Totally unavailable, and, even if he were, one who would not give me a second or even third glance (one: you just know these things; two: you especially know when he all but spells it out in a kind of “Even if I were available I wouldn’t touch you with a bargepole across two oceans” kind of way).
   
But then he had to say five words that have ruined my life for 12 sodding months: “Sandra Bullock. That’s my type.”
   
I could almost hear my brain clicking into place. That’s where I’ve been going wrong, I realised. Not only with this guy, but every single man on the planet since my disastrous love life began. If only I looked like Sandra Bullock, I’d find love. Happiness. My life would be just like her movie While You Were Sleeping (oh, yes: a guy lying unconscious while everyone in his life fell in love with me without him waking up to tell them I was a fraud – I’m telling, you, Sandra, we were separated at birth).
   
But I digress. I met Sandra shortly before the five-word epitaph that became my life. She is, undoubtedly, beautiful, if you like that large mouthed kind of look in a woman (I’ll come onto the lip implant Googling stuff shortly). She is a terrific actor (Ditto: I’ll come onto how much those acting classes were going to cost me, too), and she is much taller than I could ever hope to be (don’t even get me started on the Googling of leg extensions).

It was Sandra’s hair, though, that was my starting point.
   
I’ve never had great hair. It is very straight, grows at a rate of about a centimetre a decade, and sits on my head like a Chihuahua in the first throes of rigor mortis. A short haired Chihuahua, at that. It’s been permed, styled, endured extensions and been coloured. But I still end up looking like the Worst in Show category at Cruft’s dog show. I once thought that if I went blonde, I might be more attractive. Five hours later at the hairdresser’s, and crying with the pain of the bleach, I emerged looking like Myra Hindley’s less attractive sister. Just check out the serial killer’s infamous mugshot; you’ll know where I’m coming from.
   
It just suits me short. It suits the texture of my locks, the shape of my face, my personality. I wear my hair like I do an outfit that has sat in my wardrobe for decades and that I know still looks good and fits me better than any other. Or did. Until Sandra bloody Bullock.
   
So, my life-changing efforts were set in motion, and, given that I could no longer afford toilet tissue, let alone a trip to the hairdresser, it seemed like the perfect moment to transform. “I love your hair,” people started to tell me. “It’s so much softer.” “I’m going to look like Sandra Bullock in a year,” I told them.
   
It wasn’t the first time I had done something to try to endear myself more to the opposite sex. I’m a girl. We do these things. I once dated a bird watcher which, for someone with a phobia of feathers, was always going to be an uphill struggle. He was also a manic depressive, so during his coma phases I read up on endangered feathered species in the hope of having something to talk about that might cheer him up. Doomed.
   
Sex, or the hope of it, spurs women into doing insane things to try to ensnare men. I had one friend who took up fly-fishing; I have taken up squash, chess, criminal law, DNA profiling, Russian, Japanese, Argentine tango – I could go on and on – just to make myself more attractive to a penis.
   
But back to the hair. The months went on. The Chihuahua got flatter. The sides sat around my face like a pair of elephant’s ears taking a long nap. Then I started to obsess about everything else that was wrong around it. Maybe if my lips were plumped up a bit a la Sandra, the hair would look better; maybe if I went back to acting, I would be more appealing altogether (one drink with an actor friend put paid to that); and there were always leg implants if I wanted to be taller (I just bought higher heels, in the end. Much cheaper, even at Jimmy Choo prices).
   
I stuck it out and, as it did when I had hair extensions and the Myra look, my behaviour started to change. I really didn’t feel like me. I so desperately wanted to be the person I thought someone else would like that I started to disappear. And disappear under a really horrid hairdo, more to the point.
   
The months went on. The products I had to use to keep my head looking even remotely human got more expensive. Still, people kept saying that they liked my new “soft” look. I started to hate the word. At my newspaper’s Christmas party last year, somebody said I looked like Elizabeth Taylor (Hmmm. Dead?). In New York, I was twice mistaken for Liza Minnelli, as I had also been in LA (“The fat, bloated years?” I queried).
   
I talked on the phone to a friend I hadn’t seen in years. “Love is not about hair,” she said – another five words that struck as big a chord as the other five had done.
   
I found a hairdresser in New York and just said “Take it all off”. Not even Delilah shaving off Samson’s locks could have felt the relief I did as the Chihuahua fell to the floor around my feet.
   
Unexpectedly, I’ve had guys of all ages flocking around me ever since, but it’s not to do with hair; it’s because I’ve gone back to being me. Flawed and imperfect as I am, I’m actually really okay with being exactly that. It’s true that you can’t buy love; it’s also true that you can’t style it. You are who you are. It’s a cliché, but no less true for being so.
   
I recently bumped into Sandra’s fan, incidentally, who said how much he liked my new hairdo and that it made me look younger.
   
NOW he tells me.

Sandra Bullock is 50, by the way. Just sayin'. 

   

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Celeb Assistant's Job from Hell

Dear "Award Winning Performer . . . "

Tempted as I was by the headline “ . . . Seeks Personal Assistant”, I have given the matter careful consideration and feel I have to tell you why I will not be submitting my application. I will go through each of your points, one by one, looking at what you have asked for and why I have decided to stick with my career as an award-winning journalist who asks for just two things every day: a cup of PG Tips and a computer.


ORGANIZED (I am sticking to US spellings throughout, although that, I am sure, will not deter from the forthcoming hilarity my UK friends are about to experience). Yes, I am organized. I e-mailed this to many thousands of people on social networking within seconds.

INTELLIGENT – BA (Hons.), Masters, Teaching Certificate, 30 years as a successful writer. Oh, yes.

EDUCATED – as above (and certainly way above anyone else who might be applying for this job).

MOTIVATED – I made it this far without any help from slaves, Sherpas, or people carrying boxes for me (see below). Heck, I'm still reading this ridiculous ad. How motivated does one person have to be?

HARD-WORKING – Ditto. The ad again. 

HIGH-ENERGY (You really don’t need that apostrophe there, by the way – whoever posted these requirements – but I guess that’s where my education comes in). But for someone who, at 56, was dancing on a bar miming as Meghan Trainor this week, I’d say yes, I am mega high energy (no apostrophe).

PHYSICALLY FIT – Duh! See above.

EXPERIENCED LIFESTYLYE COORDINATOR/PERSONAL ASSISTANT WITH GOOD HYGIENE – Geez, how long is this list of demands? (You needed a dash in co-ordinator, by the way. I am SO much better this than you!). I don’t smell. Anything else will be a bonus.

CORPORATE EXPERIENCE WELCOME – My own company do you?

JOB IS EXCITING AND VARIED. Really? I’ll give you the latter only, so let’s break it down according to your list to see just how high that level of excrement . . . sorry, I mean excitement (just a typo), is going to be.

MY RESPONSES ARE IN CAPITAL LETTERS. 

Assistant must:
-- speak and write grammatically correct English at a "first language" level.

I DO. YOU DON’T.

-- be highly computer literate in MS Office, iPod/iPad/iPhone, Cloud storage, and e-file organization, as well as be internet/social media fluent (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

I HAVE ALREADY POSTED THIS MANY THOUSANDS OF TIMES. TRUST ME, YOU ARE ALREADY VERY WELL KNOWN IN SOCIAL NETWORKING CIRCLES.

-- be able to take dictation and type at least 60 wpm accurately (without relying on “spell check”).

I HAVE A FEELING I WILL BE ABLE TO REMEMBER EVERYTHING YOU SAY WITHOUT EVER NEEDING TO PICK UP A PEN.

-- have a valid United States driver’s license and be ready to drive.

I CAN USE MY UK LICENSE. I WILL BE READY TO DRIVE AT VERY SHORT NOTICE. AWAY.

-- be comfortable driving and parking in Manhattan and environs.

DON’T BE SILLY. NO ONE IS. BUT ANYTHING THAT GETS YOU OUT OF THE CAR VERY QUICKLY WILL IMPROVE MY MOTORING SKILLS, I FEEL SURE.

-- be comfortable with (and have 20-40+ hrs./week availability for) a highly flexible schedule: the work hours may be in the morning, through the day, and late at night on both weekdays and weekends, in locations both inside and outside Manhattan. The work week will vary.

WILL THERE BE WINE?

-- be comfortable with party planning and executing small in-home gatherings and larger infrequent events with 100+ guests, such as opening nights, dinner parties, celebrations of life milestones.

OH, NOW YOU’RE TALKING. WILL THERE BE SEX? AND CAN I JOIN IN WHEN I HAVE DONE THE WASHING UP?

-- maintain a professional, upbeat, and positive demeanor and appearance (even in stressful situations).

YES, IF THERE IS WINE AND SEX.

-- independently complete work tasks calmly, quickly, with precision accuracy in a variety of high-pressured, time-sensitive situations; be detail-oriented.

YES, ABSOLUTELY (I FEEL IT’S GOING VERY WELL, BY THE WAY . . . ).

-- assist actress with staying on schedule and arriving on time to her appointments.

HANG ON – IT’S A WOMAN? DAMN. HOLD FIRE ON THE SEX BIT.

-- be impeccably trustworthy handling cash, credit cards, and valuables (background check will be performed on finalist candidates).

I LIKE THE SOUND OF BEING IN CHARGE OF THE CASH AND VALUABLES.

-- be able to lift and move boxes in excess of 30 pounds (including up and down stairs) without assistance.

OH, COME ON. IT WAS GOING SO WELL. WHAT’S IN THE BOXES? AM I JUST A PAID DRUG TRAFFICKER/BODY SNATCHER NOW? THAT’S A LITTLE UNDER A THIRD OF MY BODY WEIGHT.

During the run of any theatre/film/television/cabaret/concert/personal appearance project, Assistant will:
-- prepare actor for each engagement.

EASY – GET ON STAGE, LOVE. IT’S YOUR JOB.

-- settle her in her dressing room or apartment.

SHUT THE EFF UP AND HAVE A GLASS OF WATER; YOU’LL BE FINE.

-- accompany actor to the theatre/set.

IT’S OVER THERE.

-- pack up actor’s belongings at the end of the engagement.


SORRY, MY MUM’S BEEN TAKEN ILL. HAVE TO DASH.

Other duties:
-- booking travel arrangements

HERE’S THE NUMBER OF MY MATE IN VIRGIN ATLANTIC.

-- running lines with actor for upcoming Broadway, film, TV, and concert/personal appearance projects

“ROMEO, ROMEO . . . " YEAH, DON’T WORRY, YOU’RE GREAT.

-- running errands (shopping, drop-offs and pick-ups, pumping gas)

WOULD YOU MIND IF I PUT YOUR POINTS ON MY CARD?

-- cooking/meal preparation, table service, kitchen/apartment cleanup before and after parties, and food shopping

PARTIES? I’M THERE!

-- daily tidying, simple cleaning (bedrooms and bathrooms, windows), and small and large scale organizational projects

NO WET PATCHES, SORRY.

-- wardrobe prep and maintenance: dressing/undressing actor, light sewing, steaming and ironing, occasional laundry, packing for trips, maintaining organized closets

FLAMIN’ ‘ECK. I’M EXHAUSTED. WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE WITH THE UNDRESSING BIT IF YOU’D BEEN A MAN.

-- dealing with correspondence, mail, bills, email, phone messages

ONE WORD: TRASH. LEAVE US ALONE. DON’T YOU KNOW MY CLIENT IS A SUPERSTAR?

-- merchandise sales at theatrical venues (CDs, DVDs etc.)

DO I GET TO SELL THEM OR STEAL THEM?

-- gift wrapping and presentation (often for a large group)

I AM REALLY, REALLY BAD AT WRAPPING. THIS COULD BE THE POINT AT WHICH I FAIL THE INTERVIEW.


Immediate start.
$18 hr. starting pay. Some snacks and lunch are provided, if desired.

I WAS THINKING MORE $1,800 A MINUTE. TELL ME MORE ABOUT “IF DESIRED". IT WILL ALWAYS BE DESIRED, OK?

Job is 20-40+ hours/wk. Assistant is paid as an Independent Contractor at the hourly rate and will receive a Form 1099.

ONLY 20-40 HOURS? GREAT, I CAN KEEP WORKING FOR THE DAILY MAIL. THEY’LL UNDERSTAND.

Some travel required (to set and/or actor’s vacation home).

HEY! WHERE THE HECK IS IT? AND DO I GET TO STAY OR DO I HAVE TO SLEEP IN THE CAR (MY CAR) OUTSIDE?

Please note on your submission if you also have your own car (a plus).

THAT ANSWERS THAT ONE, THEN.

You will report to actor’s Executive Assistant and directly to Actor.

THERE’S A SUCKER ABOVE ME?

Must use your own laptop and cell phone.

THIS JUST GETS BETTER AND BETTER!

Two (2) references required; please include in submission.

EVERYONE I KNOW WHO WOULD AGREE TO THESE TERMS IS DEAD.

Confidentiality agreement signed from first day of work.

I WON’T MAKE THAT FIRST DAY.

Typing and grammar tests will be administered prior to personal interview.

I WILL BE TESTING YOURS FIRST. I AM BETTER.

AND IF I HAD TO APPLY IN ONE PARAGRAPH, THIS WOULD BE IT: DON’T EVER BE SO STUPID AS TO EMPLOY SOMEONE WHO WOULD POST THESE DEMANDS. WHATEVER YOUR AWARDS OR STATUS, YOU WILL FOREVER BE REMEMBERED AS THE VAIN, RUDE, DEMANDING PERSON WANTING A SLAVE, A SHERPA, A HEAD COOK AND BOTTLE WASHER. AND YOUR NAME WILL COME OUT – IT REALLY WILL. IN THE MEANTIME, I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING WHO THE SAP IS WHO ACTUALLY WANTS THIS JOB.

DON'T CALL ME . . . 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bunnies and Buns - Memories of Easters Past

I always feel incredibly sad at Easter. Not because of the religious aspect (although singing There is a Green Hill Far Away in my childhood chapel was depressing, to say the least), but because it brings back memories of a past long gone.
   
On the morning of Good Friday, my brother Nigel and I would go to “Jean the Shop” (everyone in the South Wales village of Coity was linked to their place of work) to collect hot cross buns. They would arrive in enormous trays, still warm, and we would carry them in bags back home to enjoy them toasted at the kitchen table.
   
On Easter Sunday (the day my parents were married - at that time, on April 18th), we would wake to a pile of chocolate eggs and rabbits before going to church (we were allowed to eat one half of an egg beforehand) and returning home to a roast dinner and an afternoon of stuffing our faces with more egg.
   
How I loved those eggs. The promise of what lurked beneath the gold and red foil. Separating the two halves and removing the brown cellophane bag of buttons or mini chocolate bars inside. The first crack of the thick part of the egg, breaking it piece by piece, like the unravelling of a jigsaw.
   
One year, the mother of Bev, who worked in my mother’s hairdressing salon in Newport, before we moved to Coity, gave Nigel, my brother, and me, two enormous animals: mine, a white rabbit, Nigel’s a blue dog. That was exciting enough, but when we unzipped their backs, we found they were crammed with all manner of sweets, chocolates and eggs. It was the most exciting Easter I ever recall. I wasn’t, and am not, a big chocolate fan (these days, a Kit Kat can last me a month), but the excitement of those wrappers, pristine and welcoming, is something I have never forgotten.
   
I was lucky enough to have a very happy childhood, with two loving, doting parents, for whom having children was never less than a total joy. When I think back, it is not the material goods we had that I most recall, but the things I regarded as treats, such as hot cross buns; the moments in which the world seemed perfect and I knew, although did not articulate, what happiness was.
   
On New Year’s Day, Nigel and I woke to a pile of goodies at the bottom of our beds – the party paraphernalia Mum and Dad always brought us back from the parties they had attended the night before. I remember the crepe of the whistles that unfurled at one blow; the crisp cardboard of the hats with their plumes of shredded foil .
   
Our parents never left us out of anything. On the rare occasions they enjoyed the luxury of a takeaway Chinese meal, they used to bring us a small saucer in bed. Chicken and pineapple, sweet and sour pork, rice – no food ever tasted as good as those nocturnal surprises eaten with a teaspoon.
   
We had a cooked meal and pudding every day, but sometimes, before our bedtime, Mum would bake an extra treat – Cornish pasties or toffee. I can still smell the hot pastry and sugar, hear the crack of the hardened caramel.
   
There were no computers in those days and, bizarrely, for someone who went on to be a TV critic, I wasn’t a huge TV watcher. But I recall two TV treats that remain for me, the height of decadence: the Miss World contest, and Muhammad Ali fights. Because both events were on TV way past our bedtime, we were allowed up to watch them only if we went to bed at 6pm and slept for two hours. Then, at 8pm, we were allowed downstairs in our dressing gowns to watch the grand spectacles. 

When we got our first colour TV and I saw the Miss World Evening Wear section for the first time in all its glory, the excitement was almost unbearable. Watching Ali instilled in me a love of boxing that continues to this day, and also taught me a lot about confidence and the need for self-assurance in one’s ability.
   
And so, this Good Friday, I want to say thank you to my mother and father (even though my father died in 1990, I think of him all the time) for their love and for our treats – the things that taught me that happiness is a state of being, not of having.
   
Happy Easter, everyone, whatever your religious persuasion. 

Peace, happiness and chocolate to you all. 

And don’t have rabbit for your Sunday roast. That’s just cruel.